Technical and community colleges impact local economies far beyond conferring degrees. They play a pivotal role in driving the economic and social growth of the communities they serve.
Let’s see how.
Community colleges prepare citizens to succeed in today’s workforce. They go beyond offering the industry knowledge needed to enter high-demand jobs. They also provide learners with soft skills training necessary for professional success.
What’s more, colleges partner with employers to create programs that address skill gaps. This helps communities remain competitive for new jobs and adapt to change.
Another way community colleges create impact is by supporting the local entrepreneurs. They offer programs that help business owners learn skills critical to business growth.
Jacqueline Peña, Former Dean of Faculty at Miami-Dade College, is a strong believer in the system. In her article on The EvoLLLution, she emphasized how colleges serve local needs.
“Community colleges have been active players in the economic development of the communities they serve. As workforce and community needs change, community colleges have demonstrated their nimbleness in meeting the changing needs of the community,” she wrote.
The Significance of Customer Experience
The mission of a community college is well embedded in its name—community. Their main purpose is to serve the underserved. To achieve their mission, it's important that college leaders focus on customer experience.
Superior customer experience is especially important in the non-credit and continuing education space. It differentiates the college from competition and appeals to prospective learners. It influences learners to remain engaged, both in a program and throughout their life.
Customer experience is more than a buzzword. Unfortunately, that’s what most technical and community college leaders see it as.
Leaders must realize that customer experience is not antithetical to the college mission. Customer experience is a philosophy that helps colleges serve students better.
How to Deliver a Great Customer Experience
It’s important to understand what goes into delivering an outstanding customer experience. But before you do that, you must understand your customers. According to the College Board:
- 59% of community college students enrolled in degree-granting programs are financially independent
- 32% are caring for dependents
- Over 66% are working part-time or full-time
This means the average community college student has limited time and many commitments.
Additionally, the average community college student is an adult. These adults are customers of banks, cable companies and car dealerships. They’re used to consumer-oriented best-practices and expect the same from your college.
To meet this expectation, you need to focus on your learners' experience. You must design every college process with the learner at the center. You need to make it easier for learners to engage with your college.
Dr. Ed Massey, President of Indian River State College, echoes this sentiment. Speaking to The EvoLLLution, he discussed student-centricity and process design.
“It must be an intentional effort to look at the processes within the institution that make the biggest difference in the performance of your students,” he said.
“My advice is to take the time to prioritize those things that you want to impact that will make the biggest difference in enrollment, in retention, in completion, in placement of students.”
Christina Hart, Vice President of Enrollment and Student Services at IRSC, expanded:
“In enrollment and student services, for example, we’re analyzing our processes to assess if we are putting up barriers unintentionally in the registration and retention areas,” she said to The EvoLLLution.
“We’re also looking openly and honestly at some of our processes and procedures that students have to go through, to understand how we might be holding them up or making it less comfortable.”
Streamlining processes is one of the many steps you can take. There are other areas that you must consider to enrich the experience for your learners. Explore how you can support them to achieve their life goals. Understand learner preferences so that you can guide them through focused pathways. You must earn their trust for them to keep returning to you for their lifetime education needs.
Last but not least, adopt a culture that values learner experience. It has to be as important to the enrollment manager as it is to faculty teaching the program. Understand what the student experience needs to be, and compare it to what it is. This should become a practice and part of your college’s culture.
A Critical Pillar for Building the Workforce
There is no lack of education providers today. Yet, it is community colleges that the underserved first visit. These colleges offer affordable education and attract community members with varying learning needs. This is why these colleges must remain student focused.
After all, these institutions play a vital role in building the workforce. And as a leader, you are responsible for their success.
Read our whitepaper to learn how you can equip your college for sustainable growth.